The panel “Refugees: Digital Lifelines” took over the main stage at Cairo’s leading startup summit, where Re:Coded and Gaza Sky Geeks talked about their tech programs.
By SWB Team
Last weekend, Egypt’s Riseup Summit kicked off their sixth edition at the heart of Cairo’s tech hub, The Greek Campus. Themed “Grounded Experiences,” the massive event focused on reaching out for resources easier and taking risks in better ways.
The three-day summit gathered over 6,000 people to meet, network and discuss topics around three main tracks: Technology, Capital and Creativity, featuring a plethora of global and local ecosystem prominent investors, entrepreneurs, technology and creativity icons as well as hands-on workshops.
Taking on the technology stage, the panel “Refugees: Digital Lifelines” took place on the first day, on the technology stage, featuring Alexandra Clare, Co-founder of Re:Coded, Ryan Sturgill, Director of Gaza Sky Geeks, and moderated by Melissa Jun Rowley, Journalist for BBC News & Forbes and advisor for #50INTECH.
Re:Coded, run by Clare, is a non-profit training conflict-affected youth to become the technology leaders of tomorrow. The organisation has so far helped nearly 140 youth learn coding across Iraq, Turkey and Yemen, 88% of which obtained a job after the program.
“There is a huge transformation that happens to people coming out of these programs, in terms of their confidence. It’s really not about the program success, but about the other skills they grow -like strengthening communications skills or being able to work with clients around the world,” she said. “This is very critical to be able to negotiate and navigate, manage products and work in agile environment. These are necessary skills you take for granted growing up and was not part of your education system.”
Sturgill, who runs Gaza Sky Geeks, agreed that it is not about training or funding alone – it’s much bigger. “We encourage all the startups’ owners to build up their management muscles to be able to execute. And this is also the way we approach our acceleration program; we want to see you connecting together a team, then you can build something people can use,” he explained. “Execution and being accountable first, then we can speak about capital.”
“There is a huge transformation that happens to people coming out of these programs, in terms of their confidence.”
Gaza Sky Geeks is a Google-backed tech hub, startup accelerator, and first full-stack coding academy based in Palestine. Sturgill has also helped establish a startup incubator in Afghanistan with support from Google, and advised small businesses on operations and financial strategy across Palestine, the UAE, Iraq, and Pakistan.
“We have a lot of mentor volunteers and serial entrepreneurs who come and enable us to create a broad mentorship network,” he added.
In working to boost the participation of conflict-affected youth in the tech world, Clare explained that building partnerships with other startups is key. “Collaboration is one of our core values. When you have an expertise gap we want to fill it with a partner. For one of our bootcamps, we partnered with Natakallam and it was a very powerful example, we shared speakers. It is absolutely essential especially if you think you create an ecosystem, to think you can do that by yourself is really foolish,” she said.
“We encourage all the startups’ owners to build up their management muscles to be able to execute.”
At the end of the day, their participation in the tech landscape not only boosts their integration – it also radically grows the ecosystem. “There is a global but more regional talent gap in terms of Arabic speaking developers,” said Clare. “it’s very interesting for me to focus on scaling the businesses.”
Main photo: Elaf Asfour
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